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by Paula Wheeler


‘Tis the season for students who applied Early Decision or Early Action to start hearing back from their favorite schools. Understandably, anxiety may be running high in the household! While we are all hoping our students get messages that begin with “Congratulations!” some might receive news that a school has decided to defer a decision on their admission.


What does it mean that I’m deferred?

A deferral is not a denial, and it means that a student is still in the college’s pool of applicants under consideration. Still, it’s understandable to feel some disappointment, and totally OK that it might take some time to process the news. The important thing for students to remember is to not make the deferral mean anything negative about them personally, or about their academic record or achievements. Early applicants applied to very selective schools in record numbers this year, and these schools see far more qualified applicants than they can possibly admit in the early round.

A deferral is an admissions department’s way of acknowledging the strength of a student’s application, while also communicating that they’d like more information before making a decision. This might mean they need more information about the student as well as more information about the total applicant pool, so they can meet institutional priorities and achieve this year’s goals for putting together the next freshman class.


What should I do now?

As with everything in the admissions process, a focus on what we can control is key, and the most important thing a student can do is achieve their strongest possible finish to this semester. A strong mid-year report is not only the best way to enhance your deferred application, it can also strengthen your standing among the regular-decision pool at other schools. Once posted, students should make sure their school counselor sends their grades for this semester to the school that has deferred them.

Even before semester grades are in, we strongly recommend that deferred students email the college a letter of continued interest. The letter should thank the admissions office for their continued consideration, and enthusiastically express interest in attending the school (if it’s your first choice and you would absolutely attend if admitted, say so!). It should also touch on any new accomplishments, leadership roles, awards or recognitions, and talk about what the student is looking forward to for the spring, which shows their continued engagement in and commitment to their activities.

Some colleges may invite a student to submit additional updates, such as new test scores or letters of recommendation. But some will ask the student to refrain from sending anything beyond the semester grades, and it’s important to honor that request.


What about other schools’ applications?

As they are turning attention to finishing up their remaining regular deadline applications, we encourage students to take a deeper dive into these other great colleges on their lists! Revisiting what excited them about these schools and getting more curious about what more they may have to offer can help them feel empowered and remind them that they have many excellent options.

Hopefully, students have completed or are on their way to completing these RD applications, but if they find themselves needing some last-minute additional essay help, they should reach out! We are happy to set them up with essay support over the next several weeks!

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